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In Journal of Alzheimer's disease reports

Background : Although aging is the strongest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD), it remains uncertain if the blood DNA methylation clock, which reflects the effect of biological aging on DNA methylation (DNAme) status of blood cells, may be used as a surrogate biomarker for AD pathology in the central nervous system (CNS).

Objective : We aimed to develop a practical model to predict for A/T/N-based AD biomarkers as the prediction targets using the aging acceleration of blood cells.

Methods : We obtained data of North American ADNI study participants (n = 317) whose blood DNA methylation microarray (Illumina HumanMethylation EPIC Beadchips) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) AD biomarkers (Aβ, t-tau, and p-tau) were recorded simultaneously. Methylation clock was calculated to conduct machine learning, in order to predict binary statuses (+ or -) for A (corresponding to the lowered CSF Aβ), T (the elevated CSF p-tau), or N (the elevated CSF t-tau). The predictive performance of the models was evaluated by area under curve (AUC) in the test subset within ADNI.

Results : Among the 317 included samples, 194 (61.2%) were A+, 247 (77.9%) were T+, and 104 (32.8%) were N+. The degree of blood aging acceleration showed weak positive correlation with the CSF Aβ levels, even after adjustment with APOE genotype and other covariates. However, the contribution of aging acceleration to improve the predictive performance of models was not significant for any of A+, T+, or N+.

Conclusion : Our exploratory attempts could not demonstrate the substantial utility of the peripheral blood cells' methylation clock as a predictor for A/T/N-based CSF biomarkers of AD, and further additional work should be conducted to determine whether the blood DNAme signatures including methylation clock have substantial utility in detecting underlying amyloid, tau or neurodegeneration pathology of AD.

Sato Kenichiro, Mano Tatsuo, Suzuki Kazushi, Toda Tatsushi, Iwatsubo Takeshi, Iwata Atsushi


A/T/N, Alzheimer’s disease, DNA methylation, blood biomarker, epigenetic clock